Summer may be a slow starter in coastal Norway this year. But the multinational crew of Barba is flooding into the Norwegian fjords from their respective corners of the world – the Alps, Florida, eastern Norway, Russia and, eventually, Wales – for a three-month-long expedition destined for the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard.
Captain Andreas B. Heide’s marina-front flat in Stavanger in southern Norway is in a state of admitted disarray. Gear of all manner is strewn to and fro — a camera case here, an ocean dry suit delivery there — as the crew attempts to streamline what’s really essential for what promises to be a challenging 112-day voyage.
The story of how we all met is almost as interesting as the one of where we’re going and what we’ll be doing along the way.
But suffice to say we are all adventurers of a common ilk brought together in a most modern way thanks to random encounters, social media, friends-of-friends and all those serendipitous things that make sailing greater than ever these days.
We’re a band of roving sea and mountain gypsies in some ways, equipped with all manner of camping toys, scuba diving equipment, alpine gear and paragliders, among other adventure essentials. And we have experience pursuing our passions in all corners of the planet.
But for this summer it’s all about exploring Norway’s vast coastline and sailing Barba as far north as she’ll go, ice-depending.
Heide has already sailed Barba to the Faroe Islands, Greenland and the remote Norwegian military outpost of Jan Mayen, but this is to be her biggest expedition to date.
The 3,400-nautical-mile return expedition will stop in such fabled Norwegian outposts as the Lofoten Islands and Tromsø before arriving in Longyearbyen, the municipality capital of Svalbard, a Norwegian Arctic territory famed for its polar bears, walruses and over 2,000 glaciers.
Such a challenging journey has required massive coordination and vast upgrades to the 37-foot-long fiberglass Jeanneau. Among the more specialized equipment on Barba for the journey are a spiked mat for preventing uninvited polar bears from climbing onboard, forward-looking sonar by Simrad to reveal uncharted rocks in front of the vessel, custom made expedition sails from Ullman Sails, and a Jordan Series Drouge storm anchor.
The biggest logistical and navigational challenge we foresee will be a 45-day leg with no port stops or the ability to re-supply or re-fuel after leaving Longyearbyen to circumnavigate the Svalbard archipelago before making our way back to mainland Norway. But before that happens, we have the whole way north along the Norwegian coastline to enjoy.
The ice pole is loaded, the mackerel smoker and aquavit, too, for warming up Arctic nights. There will be heavier artillery onboard at some point, too – flare guns and rifles, namely – for keeping Svalbard’s famous polar bears at bay.
But the devil is in the details, of course, and for a journey of this length and ambitiousness there are still a few loose ends waiting to be sorted out, even on the eve of departure.
In roughly three week’s time we plan to arrive in Tromsø, the last part of call before the dash to Longyearbyen and all the icy adventures that we’ll launch from there.
That we’ll be kissing the Norwegian mainland goodbye in the port made legendary by so many other Arctic explorers before us is an honor any high-latitude sailor can appreciate.
Follow along on Barba’s adventures at http://barba.no/